How Does Time Work On The Moon?

We’re looking to go back to the Moon. Not just with robots this time, but with astronauts, too! They’ll be doing all kinds of interesting things when they get there. Maybe they’ll even work towards establishing a more permanent presence for humanity on the lunar surface, in which case they’ll have to get up in the morning, eat breakfast, and get to work.

This raises the question—how does time work on the Moon? As simple as they can be down here, Earthly days and years have little meaning up there, after all. So what’s going on up there?

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Hackaday Links: April 9, 2023

When it comes to cryptocurrency security, what’s the best way to secure the private key? Obviously, the correct answer is to write it on a sticky note and put it on the bezel of your monitor; nobody’ll ever think of looking there. But, if you’re slightly more paranoid, and you have access to a Falcon 9, you might just choose to send it to the Moon. That’s what is supposed to happen in a few months’ time, as private firm Lunar Outpost’s MAPP, or Mobile Autonomous Prospecting Platform, heads to the Moon. The goal is to etch the private key of a wallet, cheekily named “Nakamoto_1,” on the rover and fund it with 62 Bitcoins, worth about $1.5 million now. The wallet will be funded by an NFT sale of space-themed electronic art, because apparently the project didn’t have enough Web3.0 buzzwords yet. So whoever visits the lunar rover first gets to claim the contents of the wallet, whatever they happen to be worth at the time. Of course, it doesn’t have to be a human who visits.

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NASA Called, They Want Their Cockroaches Back

News hit earlier this month that the infamous “cockroach moon dust” was up for auction? Turns out, NASA is trying to block the sale as they assert that they own all the lunar material brought back from the Apollo missions. What? You didn’t know about cockroach moon dust? Well, it is a long and — frankly — weird story.

It may sound silly now, but there was real concern in 1969 that Apollo 11 might bring back something harmful. So much so that NASA tricked out an RV and kept the astronauts and a volunteer in it for about three weeks after they came home. During that time they were tested and some experiments were done to see if they’d been exposed to anything nasty.

One of those experiments was to feed lunar dust to cockroaches (by the way, the table of contents has a mistake in it — check out page 8). Seriously. But that isn’t even the really weird part. A scientist who worked on the project by the name of Marion Brooks decided she wanted a memento, so she extracted the lunar dust from the dead cockroaches and saved it in a vial. At least we learned a new word: chyme.

RR Auction — the RR stands for Remarkable Rarities — was starting the bidding for some dead cockroaches and a vial of chyme at about 12 grand but it was sure to go higher than that, perhaps up to $400,000 USD. That was before they got a cease and desist from NASA.

It appears the collection has been sold at least once before. NASA has cracked down on anyone selling lunar material as even those given to people are considered on loan from the agency. However, many of the rocks given to different countries and state governments are now unaccounted for.

Back in 2002, interns Thad Roberts and Tiffany Fowler worked in the building where NASA stores most of the moon rocks it has. They took a 600-pound safe containing about 100 grams of moon samples and some other materials. With some help, Roberts tried to fence them to an amateur rock collector who helped the FBI set up a sting. Roberts got over 8 years in federal prison for his efforts, just a little more than an accomplice, Gordon McWhorter, who claimed to have been duped by Roberts. There have been a few other cases of theft, most of which remain unsolved.

This is one of those tricky things. From NASA’s point of view, they own all the moon rocks (with a few exceptions, mostly of material that didn’t come from Apollo). If you steal them, they want them back and if you are given them on loan they don’t appreciate you giving them away, selling them, or losing them. On the other hand, outside of outright theft like the Roberts case, it is hard to imagine that you want to control old roach chyme.

There’s two things we do wonder. First, who saves roach chyme even if it did start as lunar dust? Second, if three little pebbles brought back by the Soviet Luna 16 probe sold for over $850,000 and this dust might have gone for $400,000, why aren’t more of these “New Space” startups scrambling to bring some fresh samples back? Seems like it might pay for itself.

Great Beginnings: The Antikythera Mechanism Gets A “Day Zero”

When an unknown genius sat down more than 2,000 years ago to design and build an astronomical instrument, chances are good that he or she didn’t think that entire academic institutions devoted to solving its mysteries would one day be established. But such is the enduring nature of the Antikythera mechanism, the gift from antiquity that keeps on giving long after being dredged up from a shipwreck in the Aegean Sea.

And now, new research on the ancient mechanism reveals that like other mechanical calendars, the Antikythera mechanism has a “day zero,” or a minimum possible date that it can display. The analysis by a team led by [Aristeidis Voulgaris] gets deep into the weeds of astronomical cycles, which the mechanism was designed to simulate using up to 37 separate gears, 30 of which have been found. The cycle of concern is the saros, a 223 lunar month cycle of alignments between the Earth, Sun, and Moon. The saros can be used to predict eclipses, astronomical events of immense importance in antiquity, particularly annular eclipses, which occur when the Moon is at apogee and therefore eclipses less of the Sun’s surface.

The researchers looked at historical annular eclipse data and found that saros cycle 58 had a particularly long annular eclipse, on 23 December 178 BCE. The eclipse would have been visible at sunrise in the eastern Mediterranean, and coupled with other astronomical goodies, like the proximity to the winter solstice, the Sun entering Capricorn, and the Moon being new and at apogee, was probably so culturally significant to the builder that it could serve as the initial date for calibrating all the mechanisms pointers and dials.

Others differ with that take, of course, saying that the evidence points even further back, to a start date in the summer of 204 BCE. In any case, if like us you can’t get enough Antikythera, be sure to check out our overview of the mechanism, plus [Clickspring]’s exploration of methods perhaps used to build it.

Antique Map Of Paris With Modern Tech

There’s plenty to love about antiques, from cars, furniture, to art. While it might be a little bit of survivorship bias, it’s easy to appreciate these older things for superior quality materials, craftsmanship, or even simplicity. They are missing out on all of our modern technology, though, so performing “restomods” on classics is a popular activity nowadays. This antique map of Paris, for example, is made of a beautiful hardwood but has been enhanced by some modern amenities as well.

At first the creator of this project, [Marc], just wanted to give it some ambient lighting, but it eventually progressed over the course of two years to have a series of Neopixels hidden behind it that illuminate according to the current sun and moon positions. The Neopixels get their instructions from an ESP8266 which calculates these positions using code [Marc] wrote himself based on the current date. Due to the limitations of the ESP8266 it’s not particularly precise, but it gets the job done to great effect.

To improve on the accuracy, [Marc] notes that an ESP32 could be used instead, but we can give the ESP8266 a pass for now since the whole project is an excellent art installation even if it is slightly off on its calculations. If you need higher accuracy for tracking celestial objects, you can always grab a Raspberry Pi too.

Hacker’s Discovery Changes Understanding Of The Antikythera Mechanism

With all the trained academics who have pored over the Antikythera mechanism in the 120 years since it was pulled from the Mediterranean Sea, you’d think all of the features of the ancient analog computer would have been discovered by now. But the mechanism still holds secrets, some of which can only be appreciated by someone in tune with the original maker of the device. At least that what appears to have happened with the recent discovery of a hitherto unknown lunar calendar in the Antikythera mechanism. (Video, embedded below.)

The Antikythera mechanism is fascinating in its own right, but the real treat here is that this discovery comes from one of our own community — [Chris] at Clickspring, maker of amazing clocks and other mechanical works of art. When he undertook a reproduction of the Antikythera mechanism using nothing but period-correct materials and tools four years ago, he had no idea that the effort would take the direction it has. The video below — also on Vimeo — sums up the serendipitous discovery, which is based on the unusual number of divisions etched into one of the rings of the mechanisms. Scholars had dismissed this as a mistake, but having walked a mile in the shoes of the mechanism’s creator, [Chris] knew better.

The craftsmanship and ingenuity evidenced in the original led [Chris] and his collaborators to the conclusion that the calendar ring is actually a 354-day calendar that reflects a lunar cycle rather than a solar cycle. The findings are summarized in a scholarly paper in the Horological Journal. Getting a paper accepted in a peer-reviewed journal is no mean feat, so hats off to the authors for not only finding this long-lost feature of the Antikythera mechanism and figuring out its significance, but also for persisting through the writing and publication process while putting other projects on hold. Clickspring fans have extra reason to rejoice, too — more videos are now on the way!

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Apollo Missions Get Upgraded Video

July 20th marked the anniversary of the first human setting foot on the moon. If you were alive back then, you probably remember being glued to the TV watching the high-tech images of Armstrong taking that first step. But if you go back and watch the video today, it doesn’t look the way you remember it. We’ve been spoiled by high-density video with incredible frame rates. [Dutchsteammachine] has taken a great deal of old NASA footage and used their tools to update them to higher frame rates that look a lot better, as you can see below.

The original film from the moon landing ran between 12 frames per second and as low as 1 frame per second. The new video is interpolated to 24 frames per second. Some of the later Apollo mission film is jacked up to 60 frames per second. The results are great.

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